About SVG

Those who work with graphics for internet use know the problems inherent to publishing images on the web. Traditionally, the only options for use in internet documents were bitmap images (such as JPG or GIF), with the disadvantage that these images are either too large for quick transfer or of poor quality due to high compression.

As a solution to this problem, Macromedia created the Flash image format. While Flash satisfactorily solved the main problems inherent to bitmap images, some users found it unacceptable that they depended solely on Macromedia to develop the file format and software for the internet-standard vector format. In order to address this discontent and provide an open option for vector graphics, the W3C created the SVG file format, making a freely usable vector format available to everyone.

For most image files, only the specific software that renders the actual image can read them. SVG, however, is described in XML and CSS, and its files can be opened and edited in any ASCII text editor. Though one could create SVG images in this manner, it is highly unproductive and unintuitive. SVG editors and renderers have the ability to easily open and manipulate SVG files without a special interpreter.

Objectives of the SVG Format

The advantages of SVG are the same as for any vector image. They offer smooth, crisp, high-quality images with the ability to resize to any dimensions without diminishing quality, all impossible with bitmap images. The SVG standard also defines animation, and with a little use of Javascript, one can make SVG interactive. Finally, since SVG is written in XML, a designer can create graphics based on data stored in other XML-based formats, such as graphs, charts and maps. Despite its benefits, SVG lacks a large choice in usable software that takes full advantage of its capabilities. For this reason, SVG is not as usable, at the moment, as Flash.

The Current State of SVG Software

Today, a number of software applications, both free and proprietary, can create SVG files: Inkscape, Sketch/Skencil, sK1, Karbon14, xfig, Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Xara, and any ASCII text editor.

Although not well supported by most web browsers, Mozilla (Firefox, Netscape) and other browsers such as Safari and Konqueror currently support a basic subset of SVG, and Internet Explorer uses plugins (i.e. Renesis) which support most of the SVG standard.  Amaya has good support for SVG display, including animations, and can also perform basic editing tasks.

The Batik toolkit is a very useful tool for SVG display, and is often used as a reference for checking SVG implementations.